Pep Guardiola's Champions League return to Barcelona is the biggest story of the season
Five years ago, at a technology conference in California, Google CEO Eric Schmidt shocked his assembled audience with the startling statistic that humans were creating as much information every two days as they had in total from the dawn of existence to the start of 2003.
This exponential growth in information has fuelled what has been termed ‘the content deluge’, the sheer volume of stuff on the internet which threatens to submerge humanity in a sea of lists, GIFs and posts about Katie Hopkins.
Friday’s Champions League semi-final draw will only have made the deluge that bit more overwhelming, pitting as it did Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich against Pep Guardiola’s ex, Barcelona. This will, surely, be the fixture which launched a thousand comment pieces.
A Real Madrid-Barcelona draw would have been the most bombastic fixture, but having played each other 22 times in the past five seasons alone, it would not have aroused the same anticipation; It wouldn’t have told us anything new about a rivalry which has been overexamined to the point of exhaustion. What else is there to say about El Clasico?
By contrast, Bayern v Barcelona is a fixture to stimulate football’s collective consciousness. It promises something fresh, something new to witness and pull apart. It promises Pep’s return, a chance to evaluate arguably the most influential coach of the modern era and how his departure from Camp Nou in 2012 changed the fates of the great clubs of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, whom he joined a year later.
Football’s propensity to unearth labyrinths of subplots around such games gives it a rich tapestry, yet few are as all-consuming as this. Catalunya's favourite son returning to plot the demise of the club he revolutionised.
Guardiola is the man who, sweating over his plans for a clasico in May 2009, reinvented Lionel Messi as a false nine, unlocking the huge goalscoring potential within the forward as he applied flexible thinking to a tactical problem and came up with an audacious answer which changed football forever.
Guardiola is the man who fetishised possession for a generation, reinforcing Cruyff’s Total Football-inspired dogma as learnt at La Masia and casting Barcelona as the reference point for a sport, his ideas seeping into the Spanish national team via osmosis and dominating the international arena as well.
He is not just a manager who won trophies for Barcelona. He defined an era, constructed a new aesthetic and is now trying to cast another great institution in his own image.
Guardiola has not simply sought to build another Barcelona at Bayern. He has respected the club’s traditions and the particular demands of German football, tailoring his approach as required, but many of the fundamentals remain intact: the overarching hunger for possession with intent; tactical innovation; positional versatility; and the will and means to win, and win and win again.
When Guardiola’s present folds into his past, when his own evolutionary process and that of these two clubs are examined in the intensity of combat, it will be clear this is the kind of fixture upon which football’s history turns.
It might have been the perfect final, but it might not have happened at all. Let the deluge come.
Tom Adams - @tomEurosport